Eastern Wash. Dove Prospects

Rob Phillips has been fishing on the lower Columbia River the past couple days, but tomorrow he’ll put down his fishing rod and sacks of Bob Toman squid spinners and pick up his shotgun and a box — better make it three — of size 7 1/2-shot.

Wednesday is opening day for mourning dove and Phillips, who lives in Yakima, will be working wheat fields near water sources for his share of the flying rockets.

Yakima County is annually among the top two counties for the migratory birds, usually second to Grant County. Together the two accounted for the bulk of 2008’s harvest, but opportunities exist in the Blues, upper Columbia, South-central Washington and Palouse.

Here are WDFW field biologists’ prospects for this season:

BENTON, FRANKLIN COUNTIES

The number of doves counted locally during the annual spring call count survey was lowest it has been for the last 10 years. Weather patterns, however, play a critical role in determining how many doves are present during the season opener. Therefore it is difficult to predict what the hunting will be like. Based on observations, it is likely to be an average to below average year for dove hunting.

GRANT, ADAMS COUNTIES

Dove hunting is expected to be similar to past years, though the cold spring and early summer rains may have taken on toll on dove productivity this year. Hunters may improve their success by securing access to wheat fields for the morning hunt. Evening hunts can be productive in wheat fields or in traditional roosting areas. Look for large stands of trees (preferably with dead limbs) adjacent to water and surrounded by agriculture for best roost hunt results.

Roost site hunting can be found along the north and west sides of Potholes Reservoir, the east side of Winchester Lake, and throughout the Desert Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Complex. The Gloyd Seeps Unit offers a mix of roost and crop hunting (wheat) on the sharecropped site at the north end of the unit by road 20.

WALLA WALLA, COLUMBIA, GARFIELD, ASOTIN COUNTIES

Doves are well scattered throughout the district, but the best hunting is located near the Snake, Touchet, and Walla Walla Rivers. Densities of doves are moderate. Doves appear to be responding to the cooler weather by forming flocks, and may migrate from the area early in the season.

Hunters will also find increasing numbers of Eurasian collared doves in southeast Washington, which should provide more hunting opportunity.

WHITMAN, SPOKANE, LINCOLN COUNTIES

Hunting prospects for 2010 should be similar to last year. However, District 2 is not a major dove area, with doves occurring at low population densities relative to the Columbia Basin and similar regions. As often as not, cool temperatures just prior to or during the dove season push many doves further south out of the District.

CHELAN, DOUGLAS COUNTIES

Informal surveys indicate that dove numbers may be up over last year. Recent hot dry weather has concentrated birds in traditional areas during late summer, so look for habitat that provide access to water as well as food.

YAKIMA, KITTITAS COUNTIES

Trapping indicated decent production. Even with good numbers of birds in August, hunting success will depend on the weather pattern. Warm weather is needed to keep the birds in the area.

KLICKITAT, SKAMANIA, CLARK COUNTIES

Klickitat County has the best dove hunting in our district, expect reduced opportunity this year. Hunters should remember that most quality hunting areas in eastern Klickitat County are associated with private hunting clubs. Some dove hunting opportunity in the Vancouver lowlands, i.e. Shillapoo Wildlife Area.

PEND OREILLE, STEVENS, FERRY COUNTIES

Hunting prospects for 2010 should be similar to last year, 2009. However, District One is not a major dove area, with doves occurring at low population densities relative to the Columbia Basin and similar regions. As often as not, cool temperatures just prior to or during the dove season push many doves further south out of the District.

The self-introduced Eurasian Collared-Dove is becoming more common in District One, particularly within town environments such as Colville and Northport. Considered an “exotic species”, Eurasian Collared-Doves are open to hunting year-round with no bag limit.

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